Without Keegan Murray, Iowa basketball gives likely No. 1 Purdue a big scare
Iowa men's basketball players knew the challenge ahead of them on Friday night at No. 2 Purdue.
That challenge grew immensely when the school announced star forward Keegan Murray, the nation's top scorer, would miss the game due to an ankle injury suffered on Monday night.
Missing their top scorer and defender, the Hawkeyes lost for the first time this season, 77-70 to the Boilermakers, and fell to 7-1. Iowa shot a season-low 43% from the field and recorded a season-low nine fast break points.
But it's hard to take many negatives from this loss. The Hawkeyes battled back from a 19-point second-half deficit to cut the Purdue lead to 72-70 with 2:33 remaining. Purdue escaped to keep its perfect 8-0 start intact.
The free throw disparity told the story of the first half. The Hawkeyes defended with intensity and won the first half turnover battle by a 9-6 margin but early foul trouble placed Purdue in the bonus with over 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
Iowa racked up 16 first-half fouls with starters Joe Toussaint and Filip Rebraca missing a considerable amount of time. Entering the game Iowa was the best free throw shooting team in the Big Ten (81%) but was outshot 21-9 by Purdue in the first half. Of Purdue's 39 first half points, 16 came from the free throw line.
The Hawkeyes offense improved dramatically to start the second half, hitting four of its first five shots. Up 44-36, Purdue went on a 19-8 run to blow the game open, led by eight points by sophomore star Jaden Ivey during that run.
Then Iowa made it interesting. A 63-44 Purdue lead quickly shrunk to a 70-68 advantage with less than three minutes remaining. But Purdue held Iowa to one field goal in the final minutes, stringing together timely stops.
Purdue shot 5-for-10 on 3-pointers in the second half compared to just 2-for-8 for Iowa. The Boilermakers didn't have their best performance but in spurts showed why they'll be the No. 1 ranked team in the country next week. Top-ranked Duke lost to Ohio State earlier in the week.
This loss will sting for the Hawkeyes, but there were several positives for Iowa from this contest. Sophomore guard Tony Perkins was second in scoring with 14 points, reaching double-figures for the fourth time in six games. Backup center Josh Ogundele played a career-high 17 minutes and contributed seven points and four rebounds.
The Hawkeyes' size disadvantage was a big storyline entering Friday's game but the trio of bigs (Rebraca, Ogundele and Riley Mulvey) held their ground. Iowa lost the rebounding battle 41-28 but allowed only eight offensive rebounds, four less than Purdue's season average.
Iowa's defense traveled to Mackey Arena and kept the Hawkeyes in the game. They've emphasized it early in the season and against better teams (Virginia and Purdue), the consistency has remained.
This week was significant for Iowa. The uptick in competition started to provide some clarity on this year's team. Most would call a split of Virginia and Purdue a success with big matchups against rivals Illinois and Iowa State looming next week.
Keegan Murray's return would be the perfect remedy.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.